FAA extends union pact

Department of Transportation

The Federal Aviation Administration signed a two-year contract extension today with the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) that includes a pay-for-performance salary clause for controllers.

In a development that may save the agency millions of dollars, 75 percent of controllers -- more than 15,000 employees -- will receive annual salary increases based on meeting agency performance targets. Prior to the extension, only 37 percent of controllers had increases tied to performance.

Depending on actual hiring needs, this could save the FAA as much as $40 million during the next four years, according to agency officials. The system is based on safety and capacity targets in the administration's strategic flight plan.

Pay-for-performance funding will come from money traditionally marked for a longevity pay raise under the government's general system. No new base pay increases are included in the extension, other than governmentwide increases.

"This extension helps the agency and the union concentrate on what we do best: moving airplanes safely," said the agency's administrator, Marion Blakey. "The FAA is becoming a more performance-based organization and this extension is a significant component of that effort."

Also included was the provision that the administration will no longer be required to maintain a fixed number of controllers each year. The FAA will now be able to adjust staff levels based on actual workload.

The staffing arrangement is viewed as a concession by the union, according to NATCA President John Carr. He feels that air traffic control facilities are undermanned.

"Too few controllers are operating the system right now, and we are far from seeing a bubble of hiring needed to prepare for the coming wave of controller requirements," Carr said. "The FAA believes we have plenty of controllers."

The two groups agreed to change the number of memorandums of understanding, which the FAA sought to renegotiate. Included among these was one for the National Airspace Redesign project, planned to increase the efficiency of flights in congested air space nationwide.

FAA officials expect to begin negotiations with NATCA on a new agreement in early 2005.

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